Parson to Person - Herb Shafer
“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy, eat, drink and be merry.’” — Luke 12: 19
I knew it would catch up with me someday, preaching the Bible, that is. I had once preached a sermon on “retirement” and how God doesn’t believe in it the way we have practiced it in America.
The only place I know that the Bible discusses any thing akin to the version of retirement that our nation has aspired to can be found in Luke’s Gospel in the story commonly called “The Parable of the Rich Fool”.
What made him a “fool’ was not that he was retiring or that he was rich but that he had the mistaken notion that “to take it easy” was the formula for a long and happy life.
So here I am, on the brink of retirement, myself. That “retirement sermon” has caught up with me. Along with the congratulations and best wishes comes the real question, “What am I going to do with my life?”
Many of you have, are or will be dealing with the same question. The way Jesus tells it, “to take it easy” is not really living. For the “fool” never got to enjoy even the first day of his “retirement”. The abrupt end to Jesus’ story reads, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21).
At an impressionable age I heard about a local farmer who retired and moved to town. Though his wife was happy about the pleasures and convenience this change would afford, on the day the livestock and machinery were auctioned he was sighted behind the barn crying, for he was saying good-bye to the only life he knew. For him to “take life easy, eat, drink and be merry” was a routine that he already knew would not sustain him very long.
When Jesus says, “be rich toward God,” he is advocating for a life lived with a purpose that blesses others. We spend most of our adult lives engaged in some sort of “occupation,” a job that pays the rent and puts food on the table. Hopefully, we also will save up enough that we can retire someday.
In addition, we were created by God for a purpose we call “vocation” which is expressed through our desire to help or bless others through the interests and talents we have been given.
For some of us our “occupation” and our “vocation” are one and the same thing. But for most the opportunity to live out that sense of vocation comes only in one’s free time or in retirement. To both discover and live one’s vocation makes that person rich, “rich toward God”.
One retiree I knew volunteered each week in a non-profit organization, utilizing skills he has used during a successful career. Commenting on his deep sense of satisfaction with what he was doing he said, “I do it because I want to, and if they want to pay me, I quit.”
Helping, mentoring, tutoring, serving, teaching what you know are ways to pay it forward in the spirit of what we would call “vocation.”
So what about my impending retirement? I have been 40 years in one form of ministry or another. I thank you for the privilege of the most recent of those years being in Mt. Pleasant.
However, on June 17, Jan and I will be unpacking the last of our worldly possessions at our house in the village of Bentonsport in Van Buren County. Like other retired preachers I expect that I will still be preaching and it is our plan to do a “bed and breakfast” in our historic village home.
Still, I anticipate that the first months will feel a like “vacation” and during that time I intend to have a listening ear to a call to the kind of “vocation” that makes one “rich toward God.”